After much preparation and hard work from all involved, it was finally the official launch of Whitgift’s Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front exhibition, marking the Centenary of the First World War. The Exhibition focuses on this pivotal year in the War, and displays an outstanding range of original artefacts – British, French and German – the great majority of which has never been seen by the public.
The Mayor of Croydon, ambassadors, Foundation Governors, contributors, collectors, historians, museum directors, members of the press and friends of Whitgift, joined those who worked on the Exhibition, for this special occasion on Thursday 12 March. Guests were invited to tour the Exhibition, enjoying an interlude midway of Edwardian music and song, in the authentic ‘Home from the Front’ 1916 drawing room.
Guest of Honour, Professor Margaret MacMillan, opened the event, in the Concert Hall, with a warm and thought-provoking speech, kindly declaring it a ‘truly wonderful exhibition’. An Opening Concert followed, with Lower Fifth Form ‘cello virtuoso, Alex Ciulin, accompanied by the Whitgift Chamber Orchestra, starting off a sombre first half of the concert, with Elgar’s ‘Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. Whitgift’s Choral Scholar in resident, Mr Adam Jones, sung Butterworth’s ‘Loveliest of Trees’ and Mr Philip Winter led the Chamber Orchestra in a beautiful rendition of ‘A Shropshire Lad’ Rhapsody. The music was interspersed with moving readings (in English, French and German) by members of staff, and current and past pupils, giving the audience an insight into that harrowing and sad period, through ‘distant voices’.
The second half of the Concert featured more light-hearted songs which were popular at the time. Acclaimed singer Patricia Hammond, who specialises in scrupulously-researched and exquisitely reconstructed performances of bygone eras, delighted the audience with a number of much-loved classics, such as Somewhere in France and If You Were the Only Girl in the World. Mr Paul Wilson performed a hearty version of maritime favourite, Sons of the Sea, by McGlennon, and Director of Music, Mrs Rosanna Whitfield, a spirited I’ll Make a Man of You, by Wimperis and Finck. The Whitgift Barbershop Ensemble proved very popular, with Sami Haddour executing a fantastic solo. The finale of the show, Goodbye-ee, by Weston and Lee, complete with a highly-entertaining accompaniment of boys and staff in period costume, was a fitting pinnacle of the night.
Remembering 1916, which has since received a 5-star review from popular Londonist website and which The Sunday Telegraph hailed as ‘a fascinating…extraordinary exhibition’, is open daily from 10am to 5pm, and runs until the end of August. For more information, please visit www.remembering1916.co.uk.